Narratives and the New School

OR Daily Magazine WI20 Pulse Marketing by Dani Reyes-Acosta Mockup

Narratives and the New School

You want loyalty. They want experiences. Find your way in an always-on world that needs engaging, empowering consumer narratives to get us where we want to go.

When was the last time your Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and Data Analytics teams discussed a cross-functional view of your customers’ journeys? In a perfect world our teams work together to create a virtuous cycle of customer experience, one that understands consumer concerns and answers their needs before they run into problems. Likelier, though: your teams are doing the best they can to drive seasonal social media campaigns, launch an influencer outreach program, develop partnership marketing initiatives, design immersive event marketing initiatives, and more.

Tell me I’m wrong. Better yet, trace for me the path any of your top three customer types takes from awareness through acquisition, retention, and advocacy. Now, layer in the touchpoints that mobile-first shopping and a non-linear buying journey create.

Retire Linearity

Integrated marketing is good, but it’s not enough. Multichannel marketing is also helpful but insufficient. The consumer of the future (and today) doesn’t just want to see your content on multiple platforms with a consistent message; they want you to know them, intimately.

Traditionally, we track customer progress through a funnel or lifecycle marketing model. Yet these approaches don’t consider how “customers today create discoverable artifacts that other customers can find through Google and other ways. If the brand has done a good job [of answering customer questions and needs], this advocacy process is a gift that will help drive traffic to the company” writes Blake Morgan for Forbes.

Let’s talk about the consumer awareness, acquisition, and advocacy.

Omnichannel v. Multichannel Marketing

Your customers love the self-educating discovery process: before a new customer steps foot in your store, more than half will have searched a term on their mobile device that bring them there. Nearly 90% will have connected with you or a partner brand you sell on social media. After you make the sale, more than half the customer service calls you receive will come in following a visit to your website. 

What does this all mean? Let’s frame multichannel as messaging, and omnichannel as experience. In the marketing sense of these catchphrases, the latter takes a concierge approach to experience. Omnichannel marketing nurtures, follows, and cultivates relationships with customers.

Consider the omnichannel marketing leader, REI. In its fifteenth year of consecutive growth, the retailer leveraged demands of the 36% of its 18M+ coop membership to drive a huge increase in gear rentals and used gear sales. The unified experience they’ve created—spanning commerce and education opportunities in-store, online, email, social, and events—doesn’t push product. It builds story around the consumer narrative multicultural Millennials experience, and product follows suit.

These stats give us one simple learning (with many implications for how your teams do their work): we must map the experience our current and desired customers have. We should include friction points, roadblocks, aspirations, and needs in this process. Then we need to figure out how to answer this call across the platforms where our consumers “live.”

Know the Journey

“I think people derive happiness not from things, but from experiences and relationships. Our whole business centers around giving back to the community,” says Brendan Madigan of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City, CA. Even though the brick-and-mortar shop occupies tourist-heavy Lake Tahoe turf, it’s done everything in its power to build to serve locals while still building community. Along the way, it has made a name for itself with omnichannel leadership. With a podcast, local non-profit fund, stacked events programming, and partnerships with local organizations, Alpenglow has created an experience locals and tourists alike crave.

Coalition Snow’s new Truckee, CA-based retail shop gives us another example: “whether on the snow or on our couch, the spaces we create will always welcome women who have felt marginalized or Othered elsewhere.” Their podcast (“Juicy Bits”), magazine (“Sisu”), and marketing initiatives elevate issues that women care about, but don’t see elsewhere in mainstream media.

Start Here

Moving towards an omnichannel, consumer-driven experience (and the product offering to complement it) can be tough. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by marketing technology tools and “the things you should be doing,” keep it simple.

Gather a few key team members in a room with a pot of coffee and a whiteboard. Why did you go into this business in the first place—who did you want to serve? Who do you plan to serve? (Hint: If you haven’t lived the experiences of the people you seek to serve, find these people and solicit their input—tactfully.)

Forget the tech and start with a sketch. Visualize (and document) the process each person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. Note the emotions, actions, and psychological state of this person as they interact with your brand. What do they need, want, and desire?

Start with simplicity, and build from there. After all, we’re all in this to learn, grow, and play after all—aren’t we?

This article originally appeared in Outdoor Retailer Magazine's Pre-Show Daily for Winter 2020, under "The Pulse: Marketing" column.

Work From Your Van

Work from Your VanThumbnail

How to live a Digital Nomad Life of adventure

A digital nomad adventure seeker dishes out advice on how you can live life to the fullest from a mobile office.

"Work From Your Van"

Groggy voices murmur over a crackling fire as someone brews coffee nearby. It’s a foggy early morning in the Cascades and my fellow full-time climbers will have to reach deep for the motivation to starting climbing soon before the sun begins to scorch. But this isn’t my plan for the morning: I have two meetings and a deadline on my plate.

Today will be a full day. Luckily, Squamish granite will provide afternoon solace. But first, I need to get tea in hand, coffee percolator going, and yoga mat unrolled. Before anything, I need to ground down—and thankfully, we’re finally at a point in the road trip where the mat can touch grass instead of snow.
I’ve been on the road for three months, and I welcome the transition to summer. Snow in South Lake Tahoe, made for a joyful beginning to our trek north. It also threw my travel partner and I into the proverbial fire as we worked out the complications of cohabitation in a Chevy Express.

We chased late-season snow into Canada, our mountain bikes and climbing gear at the ready. We didn’t have a destination, per se—instead, we had a shared goal of getting after it. We spent most of the spring in Lil’wat, St̓át̓imc, and Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w territory (a.k.a. Whistler and Squamish), riding until the snow melted and enjoying an early climbing season. Then we ventured to Pemberton, Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula before tickling granite in Washington and Idaho en route to Colorado. All along the way, I have been able to build the brand program I have been working on for the past year.

Life has become, finally, everything I’d been working to create since doubling down on my career as a digital nomad several years ago. I’ve finally figured out a formula that lets me play as hard as I work. Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve learned through four-and-a-half years of trial and error, conversations with other roadlifers and self-reflection:

Life has become, finally, everything I’d been working to create since doubling down on my career as a digital nomad several years ago.

Practice Mindfulness

  • Set aside time first thing in the morning to take a short walk, meditate, stretch or drink coffee while taking in nature. These few minutes will ground you in the day before the to-do list takes over your brain. The Insight Timer app helps tremendously.
  • Set boundaries for yourself on work and play, dedicating yourself to each one fully and completely. That means no emailing while playing!
  • Block your time and communicate constraints to both adventure and work partners when it might impact your activities. For work: Try Calend.ly to share your availability and Slack for integrated client communication.
  • Recognize that things usually take longer than you think they will. Optimism bias is your own worst enemy.

Make Your Own Success

  • You need a power source to keep the dream (and your computer) alive. While a Goal Zero battery is great, more economical tools do exist: try a car power inverter for around $30 to charge electronics while you drive.
  • Stay organized: Compartmentalize cables and devices. For example: I keep my cables in a zippered mesh pouch that I can throw in my backpack anytime I want to pop into a coffee shop.
  • “Four words for you: Massive. External. Hard. Drives. When working from the road, uploading or downloading content from the cloud is not always an option. I save photo and video assets I create offline on external drives. Get a 2-6TB drive from Costco for just $60-$100,” shares Kaya Lindsay, of One Chick Travels productions.
  • Manage yourself better to maximize productivity. Apps like Any.Do (for tasks) and Asana (project management) help set priorities.
  • Early morning or late-night work sessions require good lighting. Try solar lights with a USB backup charger to set the mood both on and off the clock.

Practice Mindfulness

Going to new places is what summer is all about—but do you know where to camp, hike, swim, sleep, and connect with community when you’re there?
  • Get yourself some apps that make playing easy: Try AllTrails for hiking, Trailforks for Mountain Biking, Mountain Project for climbing, and Gaia GPS for downloadable topographic maps. Try free camping apps like Recreation.gov and The Dyrt too!
  • Invest in local communities: visit gear shops, farmers markets, and coffee shops at your destination of choice to tap into local knowledge.
  • Unplug whenever possible to soak in your surroundings. Enable offline file storage (i.e. keep working files in the cloud, but synced locally on your computer) so you can maximize time outside.

Ultimately, the key to working from the road is patience, communication, and (occasional) connectivity. Regardless of whether you’re working 40 or five hours per week, these tips should get you off to a great start.

Now go, get lost. Along the way, I bet you’ll find yourself (and do better work in the process). 

This article originally appeared in Colorado-based Elevation Outdoors July 2019 issue.

How I Got Here

How-I-Got-Here-Dani-Reyes-Acosta-Outdoor-Retailer-Magazine-2019-Summer-Featured-Image.jpg

Higher Power

A life of adventure and moments of introspection atop a volcano lay the groundwork for firm that fosters meaningful consumer connections.

"How I Got Here"

¿Subes el volcán sola?!” (“You’re climbing the volcano alone?!”), the Chilean Guardaparques (park rangers) asked me with incredulity as I registered for the climb. “Yes,” I chuckled to myself. “Correct.”

I began the ascent on a perfect bluebird morning. At the summit, though, grey nimbus clouds swirled across a moody sky. A storm was coming. I searched for a sheltered place to get ready for the snowboard descent, red volcanic tuff crunching beneath my boots.

On this day, and on every summit since, I was overcome with a mezcla of gratitude and accomplishment. As I usually do at the top of each peak, I recorded a video for my mother, thanking her for teaching me tenacity and joy in the face of challenge and dedicating my summit to her own struggles and triumphs. 

Reaching the top of this volcano represented a turning point for me. It was the culmination of the past four months of adventure travel through Chile—alone. It also began a new chapter in my life, one grounded in intention and self-determination. x

 Three years prior, I’d relocated from San Diego to Portland for a Nike change marketing gig that would forever inform my work. Ten years ago, in Spain, I began a journey of ancestral travel meant to understand my multiracial heritage. And 20 years back, I moved from Playa del Rey to Fresno, California, beginning the uncomfortable journey of adolescence in a world that seemed to tell me how I should be, what I should do, and where I belonged

I’d navigated myself to the top of this big volcanic cono with chutzpah, my snowboard, and maps from Chilean friends—but I’m not sure I was truly “alone.” My father’s spirit, my mother’s wisdom, and guidance from friends and mentors kept pushing me. The divine hilarity of the Araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees teased me; what else would I find if I kept going up?

On that summit in late 2014, I uncovered aspects of my true self. I realized that my values—family, community, lifelong learning, and the preservation of outdoor places—drove my approach to not just life, but also work. Whether I was adventuring with my nomadic band of climber and skier friends in the Sierra or the Andes, studying sociopolitical movements in Colorado or California, or rekindling the same sense of exploration that spurred my ancestors to travel from Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines to the United States, I found that community always created a container for belonging, purpose, and identity. 

...community always created a container for belonging, purpose, and identity.

Shortly after that climb, I took the leap and founded my own brand strategy consulting firm, Nomad Creativa, to help brands grow, connect, and evolve with initiatives that make a difference in the world. Since graduating from corporate life, I’ve poured my heart and soul into advocating for a new generation of consumers, centering my work on the customer’s perspective to help teams challenge convention and create connection. I’ve used my skills as a strategist, marketer, and connector to rally purpose-driven creatives around getting more people outside for a dose of NatureRx. Most importantly, I’ve realized that my training, hustle, and willingness to venture into the unknown means as much in the backcountry as it does in a brand program’s vision. 

My relationship with the outdoors spans continents and mountain ranges, but one thing will always ring true: Each day I’m outside, my intersectional identity as a multiracial, multilingual, college-educated adventure dirtbag expands. If my role as a brand strategist is to take concept into reality—to create a path forward building on existing content, ideas, and perspectives to make the future we envision concrete—then let’s envision a world in which we want to live, together. Starting here at the Show, let’s figure out how to make that happen.

My relationship with the outdoors spans continents and mountain ranges, but one thing will always ring true: each day I’m outside, my intersectional identity as a multiracial, multilingual, college-educated adventure dirtbag expands."

This article originally appeared in Outdoor Retailer Magazine's Pre-Show Daily for Summer 2019, under "The Pulse: Marketing" column.

Article Backstory

Dani Reyes-Acosta, Author

This 650ish word article was tough to write! I'd been talking about intersectionality in my work (and definitely in my journal), but this was a first for sharing my story in such a public forum. A little meditation, a few hot laps in the backcountry, and some great proofing from a friend helped tremendously.

Jill Sanford, Content Editor

Jill, a dear friend but also a talented journalist, content editor, and copywriter, helped me clean up this piece before submission to The Daily team.
She helped me own my narrative with grammatical devices, skilled proofreading, and a tough but compassionate eye towards excellence.

Brand Innovation: Connecting with the Next Generation of Consumers

ORSU19-Brand Innovation - TheDaily - Dani Reyes-Acosta for Nomad Creativa

Brand Innovation 101

Connecting with the Next Generation of Multicultural Consumers: An Introduction for Specialty Retailers, by Dani Reyes-Acosta

You’ve seen the statistic countless times: The Outdoor Industry Association values our recreation economy at $887 billion. But how much of that hits your bottom line? Step into brand activism, build intimate customer rapport, center your company around a culture that values diversity, and the profit will flow, say the experts.

But you’re not Patagonia, REI, or a big box shop with the resources to re-evaluate (or yikes—restructure?!) your company. Solving for diversity is a touchy subject. Where to start? And innovating? Innovation is just for brands, product developers, and marketers who focus on new ways to create value, relevance, and novelty. Right?

Wrong. Innovation is for everyone. Every challenge to the status quo provides an opportunity to do things differently.

You represent a place for your community to gather, find belonging, and create purpose. That community, your current and future consumers, is increasingly purpose-led, diverse, and nonwhite. The U.S. will be a “plurality nation” soon, and minorities will be the majority by 2044. Millennials, who represent 30 percent of the current U.S. population—and 44 percent of that demographic are minorities—are poised to command the largest proportion of discretionary income in five years.

In the 1990s, new technologies drove innovation to provide a competitive edge. In the 2000s, sustainability catalyzed shifts to deliver both top- and bottom-line returns. In the 2020s, I argue, diversity, equity, and inclusion—and the way that companies incorporate and value new perspectives as foundational to organizational development, product design, and brand strategy—will drive innovation.

So how can specialty retail innovate for the future? Take a few pointers from the “Transformation Trifecta” of marketing, product, and organizational development.

Innovation is for everyone. Every challenge to the status quo provides an opportunity to do things differently.

Marketing

Learn about your consumer, current and aspirational: What do they aspire to do in their lives, and how can you help them? Find where they “live,” whether in Facebook groups, social outdoor groups, or at sponsored events. Then show up. Demonstrate how and why your store can make a difference in their outdoor experience.

Visibility is important, but it’s just a first step towards supporting a shifting consumer landscape. Partner with grassroots organizations and community athletes to foster a healthy, diverse outdoors community.

“Striving for 100 percent perfection can be intimidating and overwhelming—an immediate stalling point,” points out Molly Cuffe, director of Smartwool Global Communications. “We think about progress rather than perfection. We take it one step at a time with our eye on making real, positive change that can be scalable.”

Product

Create merchandising stories that speak to your customers’ aspirations. “Create a narrative that resonates with people,” advises SheFly co-founder Charlotte Massey. “Build a story and community around a series of products…[to] give customers…a sense of belonging with the brand.”
And don’t forget the “theater and romance,” adds Rich Batcheller of Blackmouth Design, a design-build firm in Bainbridge Island, Washington. “These stories embrace and solidify the things with which we identify.”

Train your sales team to support customers in their time outside: Provide resources that educate and strengthen community.

Remember, it’s all connected. “The health of the planet matters to all of us, and the solution is inclusion,” says Kelli Jones of Noso Patches. “We need to come together, help one another, and be mindful of the effects of our actions.”

Organizational Development

“Take ownership in your team’s success: Talk to them, ask deeper questions, and listen to what they have to say. Your team [will] catapult you towards building an innovative culture,” says Morgan Tashea of organizational development consultancy Wyld Lynx.

Highlight and share employee outdoors experiences on social media. Show off your community culture!

Community needs and consumer demographics converge to challenge retailers and brands to adapt or get left behind.

In the wise words of Latino Outdoors founder José G. González: “We have two options in the face of adversity. Innovate to thrive—responding to the adversity that challenges us in that space and [welcoming] the opportunity to co-create with our consumers—or to simply survive.”

So, what will it be? Thrive or survive?

This article originally appeared in Outdoor Retailer Magazine's Pre-Show Daily for Summer 2019, under "The Pulse: Marketing" column.

Article Backstory

From Dani Reyes-Acosta, Author

As a brand strategist and consultant with years of experience facilitating large-scale change-driven programs for Fortune 100 and startups alike, I know that "disruption" is a touchy subject.

I also know that good marketing and brand don't work without a stake in product as well as partnerships with both employees and customers alike.

Today's consumer-driven economy inextricably links product, brand, and organization, and the companies that figure out how to listen to their younger, more diverse customers are the ones that will set themselves apart. Ready to learn what to do?